Monday, May 15, 2006

I am Juror Number Eight

As a member of this month's County Court jury pool, I had escaped service on the lone civil trial at the beginning of the month. Seeing how many jurors they chewed through to get the full box plus alternates they needed for that, I guessed I would not walk away this time, when the court had to fill two or more criminal juries from the same number of people.

The judge read the particulars of the first case, starting with the charge of attempted murder and ending with the charge of conduct after an accident. I really wanted to know how those fit together. I could think of too many ways.

The defendant stood beside his lawyer. He just looked like an average, dumpy guy. Several members of the jury pool looked far more sinister than he did. Of course it isn't about looks, it was just funny to see guys who looked like they probably have vipers and daggers and bloody barbed wire tattooed on them getting ready to sit in judgement of some poor idiot who accidentally double-parked his SUV on top of someone's grandmother and then took off in a panic.

I can say what I want. I'm not on that case. I have no idea what really happened.

My name was never called, but the guy I was yucking it up with while we waited was selected.

The case I got involves simple assaults. Speaking of which, I felt I should mention that I was involved in an assault case making its way through the system to an eventual hearing before this very court. Not that I put a bb bruise on the buttock in the same league with attempted murder, but the law is all about attention to detail. If I didn't give the parties involved a chance to decide about me now, it might screw things up later. That was how I put it to the judge, who asked me the standard questions. Would this situation affect my ability to decide this case impartially? Did I have any prejudice against the attorneys in this case as a result of my situation? There were five or six such qualifying questions.

A friend of mine told me I should just have said, "no, I can still find the bastard guilty."

One woman did get excused by telling the judge, "I just hate cops."

I had a sudden brainstorm for a companion to the wildly popular show, "Cops." It could simply be called Crooks. For people like this cop-hating woman, it could show the successful escapes of various (alleged) criminals. Yep, just an endless sequence of asses and elbows disappearing into the night, with a jazzy, reggae-based soundtrack.

"So you're a bleeding heart commie type who believes these people are just misunderstood and deserve to be catered to?" asked the guy next to me.

"No, I just think they're an untapped market. So what if they're scum? We can target advertising at them," I told him.

Seated as number eight, I settled in to read while the rest of the jurors were picked. The process went on and on and on. I began to suffer from increasing hydrostatic pressure. Members of the Great Unpicked, the Legitimately Excused and the Already Selected seemed to be free to excuse themselves for a quick trip down the hall, judging by the number of them whispering to the bailiff and then ducking out. How I wished I could be one of them. Finally I asked the bailiff.

"Just about five more minutes," she said. "Can you wait?"

Feeling like a small child in the back seat of a car on a long trip, I said I thought I could. But damn, that was a long five minutes.

At last, the judge called a short recess.

You'd have thought the subway doors had just opened. Seated in the jury box, I ended up behind just about everyone in the room. When I got to the hallway leading to the restrooms, the line already extended out of it.

I already had my backup plan. I bolted down the stairs to the next floor, beelined for the men's room door and straight into the stall.

You've heard of Twelve Angry Men? Those were the dozen guys who thought of the idea after I did, and had to wait.

When we returned to the courtroom I was once again able to sit there with judicial calm while what seemed like scores of people bounced their excuses off the judge, with varying degrees of success. Eventually we finished and could go home. Everyone took off out of the parking lot like high school students with a short lunch break.

Remind me to dehydrate myself before the actual trial.

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